November 1, 2005
Ahmadinejad’s Jihad

By David Warren

Last week, the last Friday in Ramadan, was the occasion for a large rally of the revolutionary faithful in Tehran. The new Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeated his call, from earlier in the week, for Israel to be annihilated, and the “Zionists” (i.e. Jews) exterminated, while several tens of thousands chanted anti-Semitic and anti-American slogans, waved toy pistols, and burned Star-of-David flags.

President Ahmadinejad, a former revolutionary guard whom several U.S. embassy hostages from 1979-80 have recognized as one of their captors, is an engineer who was involved in covert operations during the Iraq-Iran war. Installed as mayor of Tehran, in an election as dubious as the one which recently elevated him to the presidency, he made his mark by rolling back the mild reforms of the preceding city council, through which some Western-style advertising was allowed to appear on billboards, and women were beginning to come out in the daylight.

His elevation to the presidency, to replace the window-dressing of Mohammad Khatami -- one of the “moderate faces” the regime has used for its tactical purposes -- was itself an indication that the Iranian leadership is going for broke. It has observed trends in its immediate region -- Iran is located between Afghanistan and Iraq -- and is deeply alarmed. More than a generation after the Khomeini revolution, it can no longer pretend to hold the enthusiasm of the masses, and has had to use ever more thuggish devices to repress demonstrations and uprisings in all major towns.

For the West, whose command centre is ultimately the White House, the question has been how to assess the ayatollahs’ intentions. Would they respond to external challenges, and internal decay, by gradually admitting the necessity of reforms? Might they capitulate? Or would they (in every sense of the phrase) “go nuclear”?

To people like me, the answer has been plain for several years now. It should now be plain to everyone else. President Ahmadinejad’s bold repetition of the promise to bring about a new Holocaust, in combination with Iran’s scarcely-concealed race to become a nuclear power with long-range missile delivery systems, leaves nothing ambiguous. But then, neither did Ahmadinejad’s recent underreported, psychopathic speech to the U.N. General Assembly. And it should be remembered that even his opponent in the Iranian presidential run-off last June, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, had called repeatedly for Israel’s annihilation, as speaker of the Majlis through much of the 1980s.

The Iranian Holocaust policy is thus nothing new. What is new is the way it is being declared, openly and internationally. And as Tony Blair, the British prime minister, hinted aloud yesterday, we have come to the point where we must consider military means to make the Iranian policy change.

"To anybody in Europe knowing our history,” Mr Blair said, “when we hear statements like that made about Israel it makes us feel very angry.” He actually looked angry. "Ask yourself: A state like that, with an attitude like that, having a nuclear weapon?"

Condemnation came from many unusual quarters, including the Palestinian Authority, which must be uneasily aware that an Iranian nuclear strike that eradicates Israel, will also have the effect of eradicating them. Even Kofi Annan expressed his displeasure.

North American media have had no time to report these world-shaking events, this week, for President Bush has been manoeuvred into a political pit inside the Beltway, and that’s what they live for. That we cannot afford to have a U.S. President tied down with cheap domestic controversies, at a time like this, was one of my unstated reasons for luke-warmly supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

I have myself been unsure whether the wiser course were sabotage rather than direct attack. For years I have thought the West should be trying harder not to appease, but rather to undermine, the Iranian regime, by aggressively supporting its domestic opponents. An external attack might help the regime rally domestic support. And of course it would have to be done over the demonstrating bodies of the worlds’ angry Left. Therefore try every option, short of open war.

I don’t think “every other option” is credible any more. We must look squarely at what is before us, and not for an excuse to look away.

It should be realized that President Ahmadinejad’s threats -- and his subsequent failure to retract them -- themselves constitute acts of war. The Israelis, at the least, are in a moral and legal position to act in self-defence; and all decent men and women are under a moral obligation to support them.

Copyright 2005 Ottawa Citizen

David Warren

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